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Week Three in Shanghai

Geotag Icon Show on map Monday, August 31st, 2009 by Lisa

A Shanghai DayIt’s hard to believe three weeks have gone by already since we have been in Shanghai, advice search China with Brandon and Jen. We catch a flight today to Sydney as Brandon and Jen start to pack up the remainder of their belongings to fly back to Boise tomorrow. Although our week was a bit inhibited because BJ and Brandon were passing the flu back and forth (swine flu?), remedy from the looks of our photos we still managed to get out and about in Shanghai. It has definitely been an experience and it will be hard not to forget the little things like random people coming up to us wanting to take their photo with us just because we are foreigners, A day in Hangzhoudodging the many many bicycles and scooters that are driving on either the wrong side of the road or the sidewalk, the yummy huge Chinese dinners and trying to eat chicken off the bone while using chopsticks, our very few butchered words that we learned in Mandarin like watermelon, the endless smog that looms even on the “clear” days, the huge smiles that we surprised people with when they were staring at us, the bar-b-que stand (or better yet, the pet store) connected to the back of a bicycle, the quality times with Brandon and Jen at Starbucks, pushing our way on to the metro, eating delicious noodle bowls for only $1, and of course the endless expanse of city life.

Art District
A Shanghai DayAfter reading some very vague descriptions on how to find the Moganshan Art District, and getting lost once along the way, we finally stumbled upon an old series of warehouses that have been converted into over a dozen contemporary art galleries and studios. Although it seemed like the perfect place for western tourists it wasn’t busy at all, aside from a handful of artists and art students. If you like art, this is a must see in Shanghai.

Shanghai Walking StreetOne evening Jen and Brandon took us to their favorite dumpling shop. Located down a walking only street (even though scooters and cars still pushed their way through) were a handful of street food vendors and restaurants. We approached a very long line and knew immediately that we had reached the dumpling stand. The menu . . . dumplings. That’s it. That’s all. But there’s a reason they can stay in business while just selling one product. They are delicious (once you wait for them to cool down). The best part about it was watching the “dumpling team” make them at the front of the shop. I’ve never seen hands move so quickly.

Yu Yuan Gardens
A Shanghai DayWe spent last Saturday morning in the gardens of Yu Yuan square, also known as old Shanghai. The gardens were filled with ponds, small temples and houses, and many trees. Instead of plants or shrubs the decoration was designed around rocks and rocks stacked on rocks. It was extremely hot that morning so we sought out shade and somewhere to sit wherever we could. We must have sat down every ten feet to take a break next to the water.

Hang Zhou
A day in HangzhouWe got out of the city of Shanghai on Sunday to head closer to the countryside to one of Jen and Brandon’s favorite weekend destinations, Hang Zhou. After a two hour train ride we found ourselves in another city, but a much cleaner and prettier city. Hang Zhou is centered on a huge lotus lined lake where you can stroll or bike along roads only busy with foot traffic and in the shade of many willow trees. It is also home to a huge Buddhist temple. We spent the first half of the day touring the temple and the second half along the water. It was a nice change to see so much greenery and only made us crave to see some of China’s true countryside. But that will just have to wait until next time.

Dancing in the Square
A day in HangzhouOn our way back from Hang Zhou we got off at a train station in Pushi on the opposite side of the river from Jen and Brandon’s apartment. They had a very small restaurant in mind for dinner which was unusual for this big city. Most restaurants are huge, smoky, and extremely noisy but that’s how the Chinese seem to like it. You aren’t truly enjoying each other’s company unless you are yelling across a huge food filled table to one another. Before we went to our quaint family run restaurant, we stopped to experience a nightly occurrence in a park. Every evening in the same place in the same park someone sets up a couple speakers and starts playing music. Slowly couples, dancers, and non-dancers make their way out to the park to take part in a community dance. Couples twirl in a circle rotating around a statue and single woman dance a number of rehearsed dances in their own separate area. Jen and I were tempted to join in but couldn’t quite follow along.

Clear Night over Shanghai
A day in HangzhouWe experienced only a couple clear days and nights in Shanghai. It shocked us on one night in particular to see lights so much further out than we had seen before. We had almost gotten used to not being able to see. We took advantage of the clear skies the following morning to ride up to the top of the World Financial Tower, which claims to have the tallest observation deck in the world. It was like having a bird’s eye view on the city and the city just seemed to go on forever.

Chinese Acrobat Circus
50 Moganshan Road - Contemporary Art WarehousesProbably our favorite touristy activity was the Chinese Acrobat Circus, which we saved for our last night of the few weeks we spent in Shanghai. It was totally entertaining and had me on the edge of my seat during most of the acts, making comments like “oh, great” and “what now” and “yeah right” as they would set up the next act. We had two favorite acts. The first was the flying couple. They would take turns wrapping their arms in two long sheets that hung from the ceiling, which would then lift them off the floor with the other partner attached to one of their extremities, and once just swinging through the air only holding on to a single flexed foot. The second favorite act was, of course, the motorcycle cage. It started with one motorcycle running in circles and upside down inside the spherical cage. Then they would add another and another until there were eight . . . EIGHT! . . . motorcycles riding around in the cage. We followed up the circus show with a very traditional dinner at Hagen Daz. I know, I know we should be closing the door on America over here, but you should have seen what we ordered. Hagen Daz in Shanghai is a sit down dining experience where servers come take your order at your table. We ended up with a five course dessert with ice cream, yogurt, cookies, fruit, cheesecake, and sorbet. Needless to say, we never ate nor needed dinner.

Thanks again Brandon and Jen . . . It’s been a fun month hanging with you two!! Good luck assimilating back into the American way of life!

Week Two in Shanghai

Geotag Icon Show on map Thursday, August 20th, 2009 by Lisa

Amusement Park
page China” href=””>Jinjiang Amusement Park - Shanghai, <a href=page China” width=”240″ height=”180″ /> One of Jen’s English students and good friend, case Audrey, invited all of us to join her at one of Shanghai’s local amusement parks. Despite the fact that all the signs were in Chinese it was very similar to an amusement park back home. We started out with a ride that had us all feeling sick. BJ said I turned a pretty dark shade of green. After recovering we took our turn in the bumper cars and also rode a few roller coasters, staying well into the evening. Our last hurrah was on a giant Farris wheel that overlooked the entire city. Each car on the Farris wheel was actually enclosed and had its own small air conditioning unit.

Hot Pot
Hot Pot - Great Food After the amusement park we all went out to dinner at a place called the Dollar Shop, which specializes in hot pot dinners. You choose your flavor of broth, which is delivered in a pot over a flame, and the entire table orders a ton of dishes of raw meats, vegetables and tofu, which you toss in your hot pot to cook. You then simply grab the cooked food, dunk it in a sauce and pop it in your mouth. It was quite an active dinner but delicious. The only thing that I stayed away from was the chicken blood pate. I at least tried it but that very popular Chinese dish was not my cup of tea.

Playing Soccer in 100 Degrees
Shanghai Soccer BJ and Brandon were invited to a “friendly game of soccer” on Sunday which turned into a pretty intense three hour match. Jen and I decided to sit along the side lines and read. I was exhausted after three hours of sitting in the heat so I can only imagine how tired BJ and Brandon were. At one point BJ said he thought his blood was boiling.

Chinese Massage
Since massages only cost about $10, Jen and Brandon have frequented the local massage parlor at least once a week. The four of us went after dinner one evening and got a room with four massage tables and our own massage therapist. They give you a very light weight pair of pajamas to wear during the massage. I never would have guessed that something so pleasurable like a massage would cause me so much pain. The Chinese massage therapists might look like they have small hands but they are powerful and I woke up the following morning with shooting pains in my lower back. I’m sure it was all therapeutic but I think we all felt like we got beat up.

Yu Yuan (or “you” “you” “N”)
Shanghai Yuyuan Mart Since BJ and I have our days free we have been trying to get out and explore a different part of the city every day. We spent Monday on an adventure to Yu Yuan all by ourselves. Jen was a little worried to let us go alone and made us take a card that said where we live in Chinese so that we could hand it to a taxi driver if needed. But we weren’t worried and we hopped on their two bikes to head out. Taking the ferry across the river was an experience in itself because you pile on with bikes, motorcycles, scooters and tons of people. It reminded BJ of the starting line at a motorX race because of all the revving engines. It was pretty fun to be on our bicycles and made us even feel a bit more local. Yu Yuan is the “Old Shanghai” and although very touristy, it is really pretty. All of the buildings have been restored to their traditional Chinese architecture and stand about four floors tall. Lined with souvenir shops and restaurants, the area is a little cheesy but we still had a great time and even contemplated buying a tea set and chopsticks to bring home with us. Shanghai Yuyuan Mart The best parts of Yu Yuan were the small residential streets that surrounded it. Most of the tourists stay within the walls of the Old Shanghai but we almost had more fun cruising up and down the dirtier but more local streets outside. The streets were barely big enough for a single car to drive on and the windows were filled with drying laundry. We’ve noticed that people spend a ton of time just sitting on a chair on the sidewalk in front of their house. It may be the busiest street in Shanghai but an old man or woman will still be sitting in their pajamas on a lawn chair in the middle of the sidewalk just watching the world go by or visiting with neighbors.

Shanghai Museum
We spent yesterday afternoon at the Shanghai Museum with Jen. We only had a couple hours to see it so we cruised through the exhibits on calligraphy, ancient pottery, paintings and furniture pretty quickly but BJ took a ton of photos (which we were surprised was allowed) to capture what we saw. I liked the paintings the best, all done on really long scrolls or paper and so detailed. We couldn’t read the stories that went along with the paintings so we had fun making up our own versions.

A few more words

  • “Say” “Jen” = Goodbye
  • “Boo” “How” “Isa” = Sorry (I learned that one cause I fell into another woman on the subway)
  • “Boo” “How” = No Good (it’s a very useful term when you are being harassed with people trying to sell you things in a market)
  • “Wa” “Yao” = I Want (a good term for restaurants, markets, just about anywhere)
  • “Pee” “Joe” = Beer

Week One in Shanghai

Geotag Icon Show on map Saturday, August 15th, 2009 by Lisa

visit China – Week One” href=””>Shanghai, China - Week One After a week in Thailand together, the four of us flew back to China for three weeks in Shanghai. We are staying on the top floor of an apartment complex in the Pudong district, where Jen and Brandon have called home for a year and a half while Brandon has been working for HP. We all leave Shanghai at the end of August, Jen and Brandon back to Boise and BJ and I back to Australia. Our first week has flown by and we’ll have to jam pack the next two weeks with everything that there is to do in Shanghai. HP deals with their relocation costs back to Boise and they sent movers in a couple days ago to pack up and ship all of their belongings home. The furniture stays and we still have a few blankets, towels and a kitchen full of food. But since all the dishware and kitchen utensils were shipped, we have no way to cook or eat the food. Food is so cheap and good at the restaurants that it almost makes more sense to eat out anyways.

Shanghai, China - Week One The Food: Chinese food in China is totally different than Chinese food in the states. It changes depending on what region of the country you are in but is generally much spicier than home. During our first night in Shanghai, Jen and Brandon took us to one of their favorite restaurants. Jen managed to order the entire menu and we found ourselves with a table full of ten different dishes, everything from spicy stir fried cabbage to marinated tofu to a fish head covered in chilies to noodles made from papaya to a chicken dish. It is custom to only use chopsticks and never your hands, which are considered dirty. If you put a piece of chicken in your mouth, you chew off all the meat and then spit the bone out on your plate or the table. A lot of dishes are served in a soup, and the noodle bowels are delicious, especially when they only cost a dollar. There is nothing wrong with slurping and making lots of noises while eating your meal, which I’ve concluded actually helps you enjoy the food. Eating has been one of the best ways to explore the city, especially choosing items off of picture menus and having no idea what we’re actually ordering.

Shanghai, China - Week One The People: We get a lot of stares but if we give ‘em a smile we usually get big smiles back. It’s crowded, but I do not have to push my way through as much as I had anticipated. Our favorite view has been the older men that walk around in their boxers and slippers, while rubbing their bellies, at night on an evening stroll to the smoke shop or just to visit with friends on the sidewalk. BJ and Brandon are planning to join them one of these nights.

Shanghai, China - Week One The Air: There is usually a haze that sits above Shanghai. Some days it is so thick you can barely see out the windows and other days, on a “clear” day, you still can’t see the sun or the blue sky, but you can see further out over the city. I don’t feel like I have a cold, but I’ve had headaches and been hacking since we arrived and I can’t imagine living in a city like this for the long term. August is typically unbearably hot, but the temperatures have actually been really mild since we’ve arrived. It’s muggy but much cooler than we were expecting. We haven’t noticed a real sense for the environment and most people just throw their trash directly on the streets. And everyone (although mostly the men) smoke cigarettes. So if you think you are escaping the air by going into a restaurant you are usually just greeted with a cloud of second hand smoke. Don’t get me wrong, we are totally enjoying our time here with Brandon and Jen and it is definitely an experience. If only I didn’t have to breathe.

Shanghai, China - Week One Exploring Shanghai: Since Brandon is at work during the days and BJ and I work in the evenings, we’ve planned our days around exploring Shanghai with Jen during the days and then meeting up with Brandon in the evenings for dinner. We spent one afternoon at the Bund, an area along the Huang Pu Jiang (a.k.a. the Pooh River). One side of the river is lined with old port style buildings and the other with modern buildings, including the famous Oriental Pearl Tower. We, of course, settled down at Starbucks with Jen and spent a couple hours watching people and huge barges and tourist boats cruise up and down the river.

Shanghai, China - Week One Jen took me out to experience a hair cut during one of our first days in town. They don’t just cut your hair in Shanghai . . . it is a full three hour experience. They start by washing and massaging your hair while you sit upright in chair. Once they rinse out the shampoo in a sink, the neck, head, and arm massage begins, followed by a necessary ear cleaning where they actually stick q-tips in your ears. Jen didn’t really know how to explain what I wanted to the guy who was going to cut my hair, so we just let him run with it. He did an initial chop and then blow dried my hair, only to find that it is in fact a bit curly in this humid weather. He didn’t really know how to handle the curl and frizz, so he called in the troops and ordered up an emergency treatment. I still don’t know what they put in my hair but it smelled pretty bad and I had to sit under a heat lamp for about 30 minutes. Once my hair was flat and to his satisfaction, he began to cut some style into it. I ended up with a sort of emo-bob, with long bangs swooped across my face. I was exhausted and both Jen and I had to head back home for a nap.

Shanghai, China - Week One Last night we went on our first Shanghai bike ride. Brandon and Jen purchased $20 bikes when they arrived in Shanghai and have been using them on the weekends to explore different parts of the city. They have racks on the back of each bike where an extra person can sit, so the four of us decided to venture out for a cruise on two bikes. Brandon doubled BJ and Jen doubled me. The high quality bikes were a bit “loosey goosey” and once the handle bars started wobbling it was hard to get them to stop. I was both scared for my life but also laughing hysterically. We provided much entertainment for passing cars, bikes and pedestrians. Bike riding in Shanghai is probably one of the most thrilling activities around.

Shanghai, China - Week One Learning Chinese: Jen and Brandon have been teaching us a few Chinese words so far, but only a few have really stuck with us. We’ve learned that this small vocabulary will only get us so far in life.
Hello – “knee” + “how”
Thank you – “shesh” + “yeah”
So-so – “momma” + “who” + “who”
Watermelon – “she” + “gwa”